Sunday, January 17, 2010

Supreme Court and First Amendment

from NYTimes:
"The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether the First Amendment requires that the names of people who sign ballot-initiative petitions be kept secret." and "The Ninth Circuit panel said it was unclear whether petition signatures were speech protected by the First Amendment. In any event, it said, the signatures were gathered in public with no promise of confidentiality and collected on sheets with space for 20 signatures each."
James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for Protect Marriage Washington, said in a statement that the Ninth Circuit’s decision infringed “the rights of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage to speak freely and without fear.”

If I sign a petition with 20 spaces on it, I can read who those people are and they can see mine. It’s public.

Read more below the fold:

More important is the nature of gathering signatures. 1. the petition is promoted by people with a point of view who are “sorting out” unwanted opinion. 2. there is no oversight and accountability. 3. the signatures are rarely verified as they are being taken (sometimes it’s a clipboard on the counter “Please sign”) 4. people lie and sign more than once with other names. 5. People sign without reading or they’ll sign a different sheet of paper with a different petition or they’ll take the interpretation with question.

No, I need to KNOW that all those signatures are really people living in my town and that they have had the same presentation, read the same text, and did support the measure. I have seen petitions thrown out because the people who “signed” weren’t in state at the time and were against the proposal. Can’t do that if it’s all hush-hush.

An election is different because it is done under supervision of all parties, with strict rules of confidentiality. I have to present ID to prove I have registered and that I am I, etc. Even then, there are problems but I at least feel confident that the results reflect what the majority of the people in my town want, rather than a biased subslice of activists.

The lawyer is confusing the issue with ““the rights of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage to speak freely and without fear.” If harassment’s a problem, then deal with the harassment.

You have the right to speak freely. That implies “in public” as well. Anyone who needs to speak freely while incognito can get a blog.

I can't wait for this decision to coincide with that law granting petitioners the ability to close schools.

Can you imagine a petition in which you can't challenge the signatures and but that you must take action for: you must close the school or change the administration? What an incredible mess that would be.

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